Living with depression is exhausting. Life is challenging enough without the added heaviness of a foggy cloud. Wondering when it’s going to clear up and allow the warmth and sunshine through, and then worrying about when it’s going to close up again. But there are things that we can do to manage depression.
I’ve been living with severe depression for about fifteen years. I’ve probably had it much longer, but fifteen years ago is when it began to really affect me. And only in the last couple of years have I learned what I need to do in order to manage depression.
And though I still struggle sometimes, I also know that in doing the following five things to manage my depression, I will not only feel better quicker, but I am able to live more joyfully.
I LOVE therapy. For me, it’s been life changing. In the ten years of therapy, combined with using multiple other sources to help me manage my depression, therapy is one of my favorites.
Saying things out loud, without the fear of judgement is incredibly liberating and therapeutic. And the best part is that usually, my therapist tells me that the things I’m saying, and thinking are, get this… normal!!! It’s just about learning to manage, changing my way of thinking, or finding strategies to help minimize the stress the subject matter is causing. And she even teaches me how to do it. It’s fantastic!
How often I go depends on what I need at the time. During very low periods, if I can’t seem to find a way out of the fog, I will schedule sessions and usually go in 1-2 times a month. This gives me time to practice the strategies my therapist has suggested in between sessions. Some people go weekly. And some go regularly regardless of being in a fog in order to maintain a consistent structure. It’s whatever works for you. And, it also depends on what your health insurance covers, because therapy can be pricey if it isn’t covered. I won’t even get into how unacceptable I feel that is. That’s a story for another time.
Okay, I said this one already, but seriously, talking about it is so helpful! I didn’t used to think so. I was very good at hiding my depression, my insecurities… everything. In fact, in my last couple years of teaching, I became pretty close to my team and one day decided to tell them that I struggle with severe depression and have even had suicidal thoughts. (I’ll talk about that at another time.) They could not imagine how that could be true. I seemed so put together, so happy, and so “normal”. But inside, I was a complete mess.
I am someone who needs to talk about, and work through my struggles out loud. Like I said before, I love therapy, but you can’t just call up your therapist at any given moment to do that, AND if you did, it would probably get really pricey… really fast!
So, I talk to the best, and free might I add, alternative. My family and friends. They listen, they comfort, they’re understanding. Always willing to help in any way. And sometimes, when I need it, (and they know when I do) they’ll tell me that I’m a badass B, remind me of all the things that make that true, and then tell me to get my sh** together. Depression isn’t going to bring me down.
And it helps! A lot!
Friends and family are an amazing resource to have. But there are times when I feel alone in my struggles. Not because I don’t have people to talk to, but because there is something to be said about hearing someone tell their story and it being relatable. Empathy is super powerful in times of darkness, in the center of a low point, or when you’re feeling like you’re the only one going through something.
I attend CR (Celebrate Recovery) at my church. In fact, one of my best friends introduced me to it, and I have never been more grateful! I listen to women tell their stories, admit their struggles, and open themselves up. I feel understood and supported, and have the opportunity to be understanding and supportive of others in their struggles as well.
Three years later, I now sing at CR on Friday nights once to twice a month, have invited several friends to attend with me, some who have loved it and others, it just wasn’t for them. And that’s okay. But know that there are support groups out there. It doesn’t have to be a church group. In fact, websites such as www.mhanational.org can help you find local or online support groups for you.
You can read more about Celebrate Recovery at www.celebraterecovery.com or contact your church for information. One of my favorite quotes, and it happens to be something my Pastor, Chad Moore says, is, “all that matters is God and People.” People NEED one another. We are made that way. Being and feeling part of a community that has familiarity isn’t just beneficial, but essential for mental health support and to manage depression.
I am not a morning person! But I am a Mom of two kids, two dogs, and a hubs who works from home. So getting time to myself, and with God, has to be intentional. My favorite way to start my day is with a BIG mug of frothy coffee, my daily journals, and my bible. And if I want this to occur in peace and quiet, guess what? I have to get up early! So I do it! Most days… okay, I’m still working on it being an everyday thing but sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. And you know what happens when it doesn’t? I just don’t feel like my day is complete. I need that time to myself. I need to reset and talk to God.
I like to begin with praying. Thanking my Lord Jesus for another day. I pray that he will enlighten me with wisdom, clarity, and strength for what the day is going to bring. And I ask that he speak to me through my journaling and in his word. Then, I begin my morning journaling and bible reading.
I will share the journals and prompts, as well as the scriptures and how I find the ones I’m going to use at a later time.
I use the word intentional a lot. Like a lot, a lot! Because most things in life, outside of the daily go, go, go, usually only get done if you are intentional about it.
This is no different with scheduling time for yourself. And you may be thinking… “but I have kids”, “I have a job”, “ I have kids and a job”, “my husband isn’t helpful”, “I’m a single mom”… all scenarios that I totally, 100% understand.
But time to yourself doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or outside of your home. It can be simple. There will always be an excuse, but you have to choose to make it work if you want to manage depression and live more peacefully.
I know that I said five things I do to manage my depression, but there are actually six. Because I do take anti-depressants. I understand people choose not to take them. There are valid reasons not to. And you have to do what works for you. I do what works for me.
I have been on and off antidepressants for over ten years. Along with the above list, and taking my antidepressants, there have been times when I felt like I didn’t need them anymore. I felt good. I was in a groove. Talking to God, journaling, time to myself, therapy, all my ducks in a row and I was convinced that I was cured and that if I just continued doing these things, I would be fine.
But I was on antidepressants…so yeah… It makes sense that I would feel better. So I would gradually come off and within a couple of weeks, I would start to feel that heaviness again. It’s happened, Every. Single. Time.
And I am not saying that I don’t still have lows, but the intensity and the heaviness are significantly less for me. Makes my depression easier to manage.
I used to tell myself that I didn’t want to have to be on medication all my life. I wanted to be able to overcome and be “cured” of my depression. That may be the case for some depending on their situation, but my past experiences are all pointing to “that’s probably not going to happen”. I decided to just embrace and accept that antidepressants help me. And that’s okay. There is no shame in that.
The bottom line is that I can give you an endless amount of suggestions, with step by step directions on “how to”, but if you’re already convinced that you have all the reasons why none of this is going to work for you… then maybe what you actually need to begin with, is changing your attitude.
Yep! I said it!
I know that depression is suffocating. It wraps itself around you, and you’re cocooned in this cloud of heaviness. It can make you feel like there is no reason to do anything because, “what’s the point?”
Well, the point is that you are a badass B who doesn’t have to allow depression to have control. You can choose to start pulling on that thread and unravelling the cocoon… but you have to want to. You have to choose to. And it’s going to be hard, at first, but you can do hard things, and the more you do it, the easier it gets! I promise!
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